Owning a Chinchilla

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Proper Diet for a Chinchilla

Chinchilla Diet

A proper diet is the key to a healthy chinchilla.  It's amazing how many chins have issues that could be resolved if they had a proper diet.  A chins diet can be broken down into 4 areas: Pellets, Hay, Treats and Water.  By feeding a chinchilla a poor diet you cut their lives in half as the very least and could be in for some expensive vet bills.  I cannot stress this enough but if you feed your chinchilla items that aren't safe you will harm your chinchilla. Regardless what other sites and pages say, chinchillas have a very sensitive digestive system and should you give items from the unsafe list (below) your chinchilla may die.



Pellets should be the staple of your chinchillas diet.  You will find that many commercial pellets have lots of extras that are supposed to be ideal for your chin. Wrong.  The first thing you want to do is find a pellet that has NO added treats to it.  You want just a plain pellet.  Next you want to look at the ingredients.  Chinchilla pellets, for the most part are alfalfa based.  They should not have ingredients in them like corn or veggies and fruit.  There are 2 common pellets that offer this in Canada.  Mazuri and Oxbow.  I use both those pellets and have no issues with either of them.  Mazuri and Oxbow are both high quality foods that will ensure your chin is getting what nutrition they need and nothing more. The problem with the pellets that have all the extra treats is that they are usually full of sugar.  Chinchillas should not be given a diet that is high in sugar. Sugar can harm a chinchilla and cause death. As well corn is one item you do not want to have in your chinchilla pellets. Corn can cause bloat and GI Stasis which are deadly to a chin if not caught in time.  It's really not worth the risk.


Hay is vital to a chinchillas health. It not only aids in digestion with having proper fibre it is essential for a chinchillas teeth.  Hay will help wear down teeth and keep them in check.  There are many types and cuts of hay.  Timothy Hay should be the main chin your chinchilla gets.  You don't need to use any other hay but some owners like to offer their chin different types such as Orchard Grass, Meadow Hay, Oat Hay, Botanical Hay and I'm sure there are other hays.  If you do offer other hays be sure that timothy hay is the main hay and it should be offered daily.  Yes, chinchillas can and will make a mess with it. Some chinchillas throw it around their cage, pee on it or push it out of their cage.  Try to offer smaller amounts if your chin is wasting a lot.  As well find a hay holder that works for you.  I like to use fleece bags as a hay holder as well as my Bunny Bale Hay Holder.  Stay away from hay holders that are plastic or ones that have grates.  Chins can harm themselves on those.


Chinchillas don't need treats but we as owners always want to give our chins a treat.  There are safe treats and treats that are not safe and should never be given. Whatever safe treat you chose, you should only give 1 treat per day.  


Uncooked Old Fashioned Oats (NOT the quick cook)

1 or 2 plain Cheerios

1 Shredded Wheat

Rosehips (whole or cut and sifted. I prefer cut and sifte as the whole has itching stuff in it)

Apple Pomace Chunk

You can find the oats, cheerios and shredded wheat at any grocery store.  For Rosehips, look at health food stores OR an online chinchilla store.  The same for the Apple Pomace Chunk. 



NEVER give your chins these treats:

Fruits- this includes fresh, dried, dehydrated or any type of fruit.  NO RAISINS regardless if you hear chins love them.NO BERRIES!

Veggies- this includes fresh, dried, dehydrated

Commercial Chinchilla Treats found in a pet store or geared towards any pet.

This list is endless of things NOT to give your chins but use common sense.  If it isn't on the list of safe treats, it most likely isn't safe.

There will be people that will say giving a small piece of fruit will not harm your chinchilla but I do not agree with that.  I see no reason for a chinchilla to have any of the treats listed on the unsafe list.  There are so many other better options that will not harm your chinchilla.  



Feeding Your Chinchilla

Chinchillas should always have pellets, hay and water available to them.  It is very important that your chinchilla is able to eat when they want.  This is referred to as free feeding.  Free feeding means that there is always food in the dish.  This does not mean you fill the dish and leave it until they empty it.  Would you like to eat stale food?  Instead put in an amount that you can check later.  You will have to throw out pellets.  Either because they did not eat them and you need to replace with fresh, they have pooped or peed on them OR they have dumped them.  On average chinchillas will eat 2 Tablespoons a day BUT this is an average.  Some days they may eat more, some days less.  Do not measure 2 TBSP and think that is all your chinchilla needs.  It's an average and chins are all individuals.  I would rather waste   pellets and ensure my chinchillas are eating enough. 


Filtered water is the best type of water to use with chinchillas.  You should find a filter that will filter out Giardia.  Most filters that go on the tap will have a type that will remove Giardia.  Giardia can be very difficult to get rid of once your chinchilla has it.  It will take trips to the vet, and lots meds and many rounds of cleaning your cage.  Just not worth it in the end. 

Safe Wood Chews

Even if a wood chew is sold in a pet store you should check to see if that wood is safe for chinchillas.  MANY pet store wood chews are NOT safe.  This is a list of wood chews that are safe for chinchillas.  NOTE: some chins prefer different types of wood, they may not like certain woods.  Trial and error is the way to go to find the wood your chin loves.


Apple Arbutus, Ash, Aspen, Beech, Birch, Cholla, Cottonwood, Crabapple, Dogwood, Elm, Fur, Hawthorne, Magnolia, Manzanita, Mulberry, Kiln Dried Pine, Pear, Pecan, Poplar, Willow 

Unsafe WOODS:

Almond,  Cedar, Pine that has not been kiln dried, Apricot, Cherry, Chestnut, Juniper, Peach, Prune, Plum, Nectarine, Oak, Redwood, Tallow, Walnut, Hemlock, Yew